LUGARES MAGAZINE Nro. 59
Page. 104 - 113
By: Rossana Acquasanta
Pictures: Gustavo Castaing
Grisi Baquero is a tall and dark "Mendocina" with kind eyes and a placid disposition. Set amongst vines and olive groves, the architecture has a Tuscan flavour whilst inside the cosy atmosphere immediately
makes one feel at home. It was Grisi's grandfather who built the house in 1887. Grist and her sister are the only heirs and have welcomed tourists on the estate, which is only I9kms from the capital, since
On arrival we were offered mate, cakes, marmalade and home-made honey. Our hostess told us about the wine cellar in the basement, which we immediately went to visit.
Recently, when the French agronomist Rousse was passing through Mendoza, he visited the Baquero's home and after trying their wines immediately proposed a partnership. Grist accepted and between them they have produced a substantial Malbec and a Cabernet
(that I did not try) with the brand "1887". At the moment, the three available rooms all share a bathroom. The house was declared a historical
monument by the Maipú Municipality. Mendoza had received us with springtime in early bud. The splendour of the fruit trees contrasted with the
still naked vineyards. The city was also more lively than usual. We felt an overwhelming urge to walk the squares and pavements with their gutters, soon to be filled with torrents of snowmelt water.
Mendoza is a city to be explored. From the Plaza de la Independencia as a starting point to investigate the Museo de Arte Moderno in the basement and heading to the equidistant España, Italia, Chile and San Martín squares. On one of the corners of the last of these now stands the Espacio Cultural de Arte Contemporáneo. Another worthwhile visit in Parque San Martín is the Eureka Science Park, an interactive
museum designed for children.
The city is growing. The building of the new Hyatt hotel is progressing and will soon augment the choice of top hotels available.
María Carmen Manolio and Isabel de Abelleyra took on an old house, restored it in the best possible taste and turned it into Azafrán (saffron). An exclusive delicatessen that includes a mini wine bar at the back, which is becoming an afternoons favourite.
Praga, a former brewery and now a seafood restaurant, is another delightful experience. The servings are generous, ranging from their delicious
lamb to ham and beans, everything on the menu is wonderful.
In La Tasca de Plaza España the evenings are teeming with youngsters, intellectuals and theatre folk. This new, small and friendly tapas bar is custom-made for night owls. The food is inexpensive. Just a few metres away is El Mesón Español, which has been there forever, with the same menu, owner, waiters and the incomparable blind pianist, Lucho Fernández. Local flavours are now less fashionable. El Retortuño
announces "Comida Regional y Espacio Cultural" at the entrance of the old house. But the great gourmet news, as far as regional foods is concerned, are Pan y Teatro and Vida y Arte, two Buenos Aires-style
restaurants that offer typical Mendocino cuisine and provide venues for local cultural events. At last a wine bar -WB- serving wine by the glass.
This chic bar, with its low lighting and attractive décor, is open from 8.30pm. Since Bodegas Norton built its own wine bar facing its vineyards, the temptation to visit Perdriel is greater than ever. We were guided through the stainless steel vats as we breathed the
air, impregnated with aromas of new wood, in the new barrels section. We completed our tour in the spacious wine bar looking out on a vista of the snowy peaks of the Andes.
There are currently 29 new vineyard projects for "wine tourism". At the same time the more traditional vineyards are improving their visitor facilities and are training their personnel to receive guests. This
is the case with Finca Flichman in Barrancas.
This region produces fine wines of very special characteristics, such as the FF Syrah. Great expanses of vines extend around the house and the guided tour through the modern bodega left us open-mouthed. We
returned to the impeccable museum on the site of the original bodega.
A delicious asado awaited us but, before I succumbed, I was delighted to partake of a wine tasting with five fine wines. The first was a 1999 Chardonnay, with an intense flavour after eight months in American oak and racked for a year, the next was a'98 Merlot, three months in oak; then a Caballero de la Cepa (100% Cabernet) the first that they have produced with oak. The '98 Malbec, concentrated and with plenty of character, preceded a full-bodied '97 Syrah, twelve months in oak and full of virtues.
Another bodega that has just begun to receive visitors is La Agrícola. It is enormous and is right next to the road in Fray Luis Beltrán in Maipú. Its lord and master is José Alberto Zuccardi, whose wines have been incredibly successful in the British market and is No.l
on the list of exporters to the UK. Evening was falling and, while the meat and empanadas were waiting to be cooked in the clay oven,we were invited to try some wines. An outstanding feature of La Agricola
is their diversity of vines that include varieties of grapes unknown to most Argentines. They produce delicious wines with Viognier, Torrontés from Mendoza, with Sangiovese, with Bonarda, and Tempranillo... They even produce Montepulciano! To accompany the asado they served a jewel of a red wine, the "Q" of the Zuccardi Tempranillo family.
Viña El Cerno is a small bodega known not only for its traditional winemaking techniques - their annual production is approximately 60,000 hand-labelled bottles- but also for the lectures which they offer
after the guided tour. Two whites, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, and four reds, Malbec, Syrah, Cabernet and Merlot are the varietals that this small bodega has been making for the past five years.
At the end of summer the whole of Mendoza is vibrant with the excitement of the harvest. But in August, when the vines are bare and bodegas are bursting with wine the panorama is no less fascinating. Go and